Along with the waltz, the Danube, Klimt and the Wein Schnitzel, Vienna can count its famous coffee houses amongst those icons which have come to characterise the city. Dating as far back as the 17th century, and reaching their popular height in the 19th century, the cafes have long been the focus of Viennese society, as a place to read the paper, take a strudel, dig into a plate of sausages and of course enjoy a coffee. And of the latter, a fair number of Viennese specialities have developed alongside the historical cafes, including the Brauner (coffee with milk), the Melange (blended coffee and hot milk), the Kurz (extra strong), Obers (with cream), Kapuziner (double mokka with a hood of cream) and the Schwarzer (black) to name but a few.
Of the many cafes which have come and gone over the centuries, a renowned few have retained their standing as icons of the city, including the Central, the Ministerium, the Museum, the Frauenhuber, the Raimund, the Eiles, the Schwarzenberg and the Zartl. All are unique, but share common trends: a cosy interior with comfortable booths and little armchairs; smoky ageing mirrors, brass lamps and dark wooden furniture; and of course the all important display case in which the famous Viennese cakes are given the attention they deserve.
The famous Cafe Central, and the impressive cafe in the Kunsthistoriches museum
And whichever of the iconic cafes you choose to venture into, the formal etiquette tends to remain the same. Each coffee is served on a small silver tray with an accompanying glass of water. The waiters will most likely be tuxedoed, and it is generally anticipated that you will linger in the cosy surroundings with a paper or a book, long after the last dregs of coffee have been enjoyed.
With ferociously cold temperatures keeping us from the streets, my partner and I were often to be found in a coffee house in Vienna, lured by the cosy interiors and the traditional elegance which each exuded. We never quite made it to the famous Cafe Central, since the queues which seemed to perpetually form outside somewhat defeated the object of venturing to escape the cold. But we did make it into the Cafe Museum and, our favourite of all, the Cafe Eiles.
Enjoying the Eiles
With its eclectic mix of clientele, from the students of the local university to the lawyers and civil servants of the government buildings nearby, we immediately felt completely at home in the Eiles (having personal experience of both sides of the client mix). Its little curved sofa-booths, old fashioned brass lamps and a cream and brown interior felt perfectly traditional, and after several visits we soon got to know that it was the very best place to sample the famous Wein schnitzel, and a range of cakes to match.Best of all, with the accompanying mood of permitted languor, it felt like the best place in which to rest after the mass of museums on offer in the city, to people watch, to warm up, and of course enjoy the coffee.
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